The roller-coaster ride that has been the results of an emphasis on the running game this offseason has finally wound down. The cars in which we've zoomed around the rails have returned to the exact spot from which they started.
Rewind time to August 22, 2013, or approximately thereabouts.
The Steelers' running game consists of the uncertainly of health of Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, with maybe the help later on of an injured player, and a third down back we're excited about because of a decent preseason.
Redman has been injured (although he returned to practice this week), Dwyer has looked solid, and instead of Rashard Mendenhall likely to miss at least a game or two to start the year, it's rookie RB Le'Veon Bell. LaRod Stephens-Howling is a far more experienced and tough replacement for Chris Rainey, so perhaps this year's infirmary ward of running backs is a step up from 2012.
But an area that was supposed to be the strength of the team has a similar make-up to last year. Bell is likely not out for long enough where the PUP or IR-Designation to Return options are appropriate. He'll have to be carried on the roster, using a spot, until he goes. This all but assures both Dwyer and Redman of making the team, which is a $2.6 million cap charge when the team drafted Bell hoping to be able to cut that figure in half by cutting Dwyer or Redman.
While it's possible one of them still gets released, it's not likely, given Bell's injury.
The strands of that same old tune of frustration are overheard on the South Side, but at least they're getting perhaps a little more on their return this year. Dwyer reportedly came into spring practices weighing in at 265 pounds, but is down to 230ish, and looked solid in his 14-carry performance against the Giants. Stephens-Howling looked far more Bettis than Staley in terms of comparable Steelers free agent running backs from the past.
Perhaps they can keep this group bandaged up tight enough to sustain a running game early this season. If they can avoid whatever they did last year, it'd be a step in the right direction.
More from Behind the Steel Curtain:
- Batch: Steelers didn't let Ben audible in 2012
- Colon enjoying time with Mark Sanchez
- Sanders may have Fantasy value
- Return of Steelers TE David Johnson could seal fate for ILB Sean Spence
- Bell has a lisfranc injury, out against Kansas City
- Steelers Jonathan Dwyer using every one of his nine lives
- Steelers Injury Report: TE David Johnson returns to practice
- Steelers Film Room: Defense will look to do some 'under' achieving in 2013
- Film Breakdown: Marcus Gilbert doing his job this preseason
- Which Chiefs player should Steelers fans want to take right now?
- Breaking down offensive line coach Jack Bicknell's impact on the Kansas City Chiefs
- Steelers vs. Chiefs: Ryan Clark sees third preseason game as chance to 'clean it up'